May 12, 2009, - 12:17 pm

The “End” of Westerns: Did Americans Really Lose a Sense of “Manifest Destiny”?

By Debbie Schlussel
Although there have been some good westerns in recent years–my fave is the remake of “3:10 to Yuma” (read my review)–they are sparse and few.
And that’s sad. Even more disturbing, though, is one commentator’s belief as to why this is, which I was disappointed to read in this weekend’s “USA Weekend” celebrity gossip column:

Will actors Sam Elliot, Tom Selleck or Bruce Boxleitner, who have played memorable cowboys, star in a new TV western? No one makes them anymore.
Roy McCallen, Aurora, Colo.


Gary Edgerton, author of a new history of American TV, says westerns are on the wane because we’re “less enamored with a sense of manifest destiny and nation-building than 50 years ago.” Creators of new TV westerns need to freshen up the formula, Edgerton says. As for the actors you mention, none of them has a western in the works.

Well, I’m all against “nation-building”–which is something we did and had no business doing in Iraq and something which the Nation-Builder-in-Chief, Bush, campaigned against. (Now we’ve built a “nation,” indeed–a greater Iranian Shi’ite nation.) But there is nothing wrong with the best era of American’s boldness–our manifest destiny, with the great old west and discovering, conquering, and settling new lands in the west and the south.
I don’t agree with Edgerton that “we’re” less enamored with that era. Hollywood is. And that’s because that’s an era of American pride, where Americans worked hard, sold hard (there’s a great tradition of Jewish traders and salesman out west, including the ancestors of late Senator Barry Goldwater), and succeeded. Hollywood doesn’t like to remember times when America was great, and when they do, we’re usually portrayed as rapers and murderers of Indians. So, maybe it’s best, they no longer make those films.
Still, it’s sad that there are less Westerns. They can be fun, exciting movies. And I wish we had more, instead of the giant heap of crap Hollywood has been serving up lately.
So, what is your take? Why have Westerns “gone out of style”? Why aren’t they making them? Have Americans really lost interest in them? Are they too slow for the IPod, Playstation, Wii, post-post-MTV generation?

8 Responses

Why no more Westerns? Here are a few reasons…
1. No opportunity for special effects or CGI, as the very nature of the stories calls for “practical” action.
2. All Westerns are based on some moral dilemma, but since there is no morality anymore (at least in Hollywood), they cannot create these stories.
3. All Westerns need a good guy and bad guy, and even though this supposedly still exists in such current fluff as Star Trek, the baddies now are just excuses to blow things up.
4. The last hurrah of the Western (except for blips like Silverado) was during the 60s, and even then it was more because of the interest of “end of an era,” which writers at the time were likening to the changes of the 60s. Thus you had such films as The Professionals, in which the values were pretty skewed for a Western–but as stupid as its story was, it was reasonably popular at the time.

Red Ryder on May 12, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Westerns were the rage on television in the 50’s and 60’s. ‘The Rifleman’ was my favorite. And ‘Once Upon A Time In The West’ is probably one of the best western films ever made. I guess the thought of good guys going chasing the bad guys (and bringing them to justice) is thought of as ‘quaint’ and out-of-style.

guitarguy on May 12, 2009 at 1:44 pm

While there may be an absence of Cowboy movies, the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting is quite the rage.
A ‘Google’ on the phrase will get you 463,000 hits and the market is flush with suppliers of period clothing, firearms and accessories.
Having the “Correct” period clothing has become more important than your actual score.
I’m sure Cowboy movies will someday enjoy a resurgence but, in the meantime, there’s always DVD’s of Hopalong Cassidy to enjoy !!

Shootist on May 12, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Because children no longer grow up watching a western on Saturday morning or a rerun after school.
It seems to me all Hollywood does these days is recycle or riff on what they loved as a child growing up. Here we have Will Ferrel coming out with a Lost in Time exploitation remake and Star Trek just got a made for ADHD makeover movie too. Sequel mania proves there is no originality in tinsel town as they just follow where their manipulated imagination leads them. Of course, this is the ultimate goal to indoctrinate all the youth with what liberals deem appropriate in terms of motivation and sentiment, etc. for social engineering. Note: The U.S. as “good” need not apply.
There are no longer westerns running on TV as readily as they once did. Bonanza reruns are on channels for the nostalgia crowd while Simple Life, Jaime Foxx, Divorce Court, and too many so-called Judges hold court to mention are aired in prime spots as our nation’s latch-key youth come home from school and turn on the TV.
No longer are they watching the Brady Bunch and learning to be kind to siblings but now hear to call people bitches. Once music had American Bandstand all about fun gathering with peers and enjoying the movement of dance but now MTV/BET countdown shows where the object is learning about the facts of life through music. P.S. Don’t tell your parents ’cause it’s cool to be bad. Thugsizzle.
Now can you please stop speaking about the responsibility I need to take for my own life and community, and show me more of that famous for annal sex Kardashian and direct deposit my government check?

FeFe on May 12, 2009 at 3:24 pm

It’s that damned Buzz Lightyear’s fault. /s
I liked Appaloosa to, but hollyweird had to inject Renee Zulweiger’s insecure, areligious, slutty character into the film. Am I alone for thinking that, I didn’t care if she got shot?

Rick on May 12, 2009 at 4:28 pm

The real problem with Westerns is that the cowboys weren’t stupid – and the women DIDN’T always get the last, man-hating word.
Unlike TV today.

Linda F on May 12, 2009 at 6:03 pm

Westerns portrayed the rugged individual. In this era of metrosexual girlie men and touchy feely hope and changers, movies that show hard, independent minded people on horseback have no audience.

Southernops on May 12, 2009 at 10:23 pm

The ,more or less, decline of the Western, is in connection to the Leftist revision( read:Brainwashing )of our history; since most of the people associated with the Old West were WHITE, Leftist revisions over the last 40 years browbeats us into believing that the majority of those Whites were eeeeeviiiill,ignorant, racist,raping,murdererous rednecks,or greedy imperialists,and most of the pre-’60s Western movies depicted such people as heroes and the Good Guys and all non-Whites as one-dimensional villains( Wrong,of course,but that’s typical Leftist delusions ).
Therefore, as soon as the Left began making their revisionist( read:anti-White propaganda ) Westerns( beginning,little by little,in the ’50s,with writers like Carl Foreman,Gore Vidal,Robert Aldrich,”The Big Country”,etc, then, full blown,after about 1968 ), they portrayed such Whites as evil,stupid and ultra-violent, and all Indians ,Blacks,Mexicans,etc,as Good and highly intelligent and enlightened( Leftspeak for a
making Whites and our traditions look ignorant ),and the only Whites portrayed as “Good” were those “sensitive”( The Leftist definition )to the Indians( No matter how savage many of them were in Real Life ),to Blacks,Mexicans( same ),becoming self-loathing to fellow Whites,and having Leftist,Marxist-esque mindsets – which did not exist in this country in that era. Long overdue,to go back to portraying most Whites as right and respectable.( Not that I’m going to hold my breath ,expecting it )

OldSchoolW on May 13, 2009 at 1:10 pm

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